Three Skills to Immediately Boost Your Upside at Work

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Businessman sitting on chair with raised arms and up arrow sign Although “what have you done for me lately” attitudes abound in today’s fast-paced business world, projecting a strong upside of your future talent and potential is the best leverage you wield in a competitive job market.

For example, a hiring manager may not see everything she wants in you as a candidate, but if she perceives potential for your combination of raw ability and experience to blossom, she may take the risk. Likewise, your manager may not see everything he wants in you, but if he can reasonably calculate that more time/effort could accelerate your upward tendencies, he may give you the resources and space necessary to realize that potential.

Although your current performance remains the clearest proof of your capabilities, you can demonstrate a strong upside by exercising specific attitudes, skills, and behaviors that signal attainable advantage that is just too good to pass up. If you’re ready to land the next great job, or just “re-brand” yourself to gain access to better assignments and increased responsibilities in your current role, here are three skills to boost your upside at work.

Recognize the Top Priority in Every Situation

Change affects the bottom, middle, and top of every organization. One of the greatest challenges of change is that it clouds priorities and obscures the best way forward. Regardless of your place on the organization chart, you can elevate your upside by focusing yourself (and others) on the top priority in every situation.

To do this, you have to pay attention to the forces that influence your situation. By truly knowing your context, you can then assess priorities and define clear and relevant goals.This discipline allows you to then manage the gapsbetween goals and obstacles in order to stay the course and get the job done. Managers and leaders building their teams around savvy, forward-looking professionals want you to embody these abilities. In order to recognize the top priority in every situation, start by applying three skills in this CG2 sequence:

  • TRACK CONTEXT – Spend time noticing what’s happening around you and spotting the critical moments that could lead to something important. Scanning both the internal and external environments to understand trends and relevant events.
  • SET GOALS – Take steps to define priorities and select goals that are supported by the context and aligned with the vision. Goals are created independently and collaboratively and they are always connected to a desired outcome.
  • CLOSE GAPS – Intentionally manage the gaps as barriers emerge, context shifts, and alignment and shared commitment to goals waiver.

Integrating this CG2 sequence will help you process your circumstances in periods of heightened ambiguity and rapid change (i.e. most days of the week). And, the progression allows you to evolve in step with change without becoming collateral damage to its shifting priorities and contradictions. As you get better at anticipating changes in the environment around you, your “finger on the pulse” of things helps you more efficiently determine priorities and gather intelligence on their related challenges and opportunities.

To test this, consider your upside from a leader’s perspective. Imagine you were a manager and needed to offer a promotion to one of two candidates, which one would you choose?

Candidate #1 is friendly, professional, easy to get along with, coachable, and consistent in her performance. She knows the job well, she shows up, and she gets it done. Candidate #2 is also is friendly, professional, easy to get along with, coachable, and consistent in her performance. She also knows her job well, shows up, and gets it done. But, in addition to this, Candidate #2 has an uncanny knack for spotting emerging challenges and opportunities; she anticipates the changing needs of the team, she identifies and communicates important challenges and opportunities with others, and takes initiative to address those emerging possibilities—including the potential obstacles that could block them—with consistent results.

Again, you have the choice of promoting only one person, so who gets the job? Both of these candidates are nearly identical, except for the fact that one of them has a tremendous upside because of their capacity to go beyond their standard job description and implement a set of skills that could keep them relevant as the industry and company change over time. My guess is that you would choose Candidate #2 for the job. This single competency—the capacity to recognize the top priority in every situation—is the pivotal difference maker when all other factors are equal.

By Jesse Sostrin